Davenport speech

Mansfield Councilman Alomar Davenport outlines his vision for a new police review board during a speech Wednesday at the North End Community Improvement Collaborative.

MANSFIELD -- Fourth Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport spoke Wednesday about the proposal of a new police review board during a noon meeting at the North End Community Improvement Collaborative.

Compared to the existing review board that Davenport said not many know about, this new board, if passed, will focus on transparency and understanding between the community and the Mansfield Police Department.

Davenport, who outlined his extensive experience working in the field of policy review and civil rights, has been part of an ongoing process to change the protocol for complaints made to the police.

As a member of Black and Brown Coalition, Davenport said he works alongside colleagues to protect the citizens of Mansfield and foster a stronger relationship with the police.

In 2018, Davenport said he drafted a code of conduct which was signed into effect in 2020 by leaders of the Mansfield Police Department, union leaders and community leaders.

Davenport said the code of conduct has laid the foundation for his work by giving guidelines to how the police and citizens should interact.

“With any type of police reform, any type of criminal justice reform, it’s not something you can do all in one shot,” Davenport said. “It is something that is done step-by-step, piece-by-piece, and the code of conduct was the first step in us trying to form a better relationship between the police and the community.”

The current police review board is what Davenport called a "review focused model." Once a complaint is filed against the police, the police conduct their own investigation and then bring their findings to a review board.

Since police are tasked with investigating themselves, Davenport said the current process is inherently biased.

To make the process more comprehensive and as unbiased as possible, Davenport plans to implement an investigative focused model where a citizen-based board can initiate calls after a majority vote and prompt an appointed inspector general to conduct an investigation.

Davenport said this process would help both sides, the community and the police, by giving credibility to the police and giving the community faith that complaints are investigated fairly and in an unbiased manner.

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Buffi Williams, a community member in attendance, said she thinks the new review board would benefit the community for years to come by changing what MPD looks for in potential officers.

“I think it’s the first step in us hiring officers that have another level of integrity,” Williams said. “(This will) create a narrative that now we can concretely come up with a space that says ‘this works in our community, this type of officer’ and then recruit that.”

The current review board is composed of seven members, one from each of the six wards and one at-large. The councilmen of each ward are responsible to pick their representative.

Davenport plans to change the makeup of board members by having each of the four established neighborhood watch areas appoint a member and have three at-large. Davenport thinks this change will alleviate some of the challenges council had with finding capable board members.

Davenport said he wants the board to “reflect the community” in terms of race, gender, religion, sexuality and other defining characteristics. As of now, the board members will not be compensated for their work.

Considering the lack of community awareness with the current review board, as much as Davenport wants the board to reflect the community, he wants the community to be involved and aware of the board.

“People knowing that a review board exists is what helps to make a review board effective,” Davenport said. “It being known is key to it being effective.”

Signatures are being sought to place the initiative petition on the ballot in November. If it earns a spot on the ballot and is then approved by voters, it will go into effect April 1, 2024.

Davenport wants to make it clear that his version of a review board is not an attack on the police, but rather an improvement to make sure officers are held accountable if necessary and to increase the level of trust from the community.

“I think everyone has to be accountable,” Williams said. “I’m a licensed social worker. I have to be accountable for what I do. I have to make sure things are done in order, be ethical, be fair, equitable and so I’m excited that this is going to do the same thing. I think it’s a beautiful concept.”

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